City of White Rock eyes 80% arsenic reduction

Water-treatment budget includes $13 million to stay within Health Canada allowable levels.

White Rock's director of engineering Greg St. Louis chats with attendees about arsenic in the water supply at a water quality open house March 2.

As White Rock city council voted this week to approve a $13-million arsenic and manganese treatment project as part of the 2016-2020 financial plan, city staff are issuing a request for proposals to determine the method of water treatment to be used.

Greg St. Louis, the city’s director of engineering and municipal operations, told Peace Arch News Monday that staff have been reviewing a 2009 conceptual study conducted by previous utility owners Epcor, which highlighted the various methods for reducing arsenic and manganese in the water supply.

“Since that time there has more than likely been some advances in technology,” St. Louis said. “So what we want to do is have a consultant look at what is currently available and see what the costs are, as well as the ongoing operating costs associated with those, and based on that, we’ll make a selection.”

St. Louis said the city is also in the process of applying for federal and provincial infrastructure grants to help pay for the cost of the two treatment plants planned for the city – one at the Oxford water reservoir and one at the Merklin pump station, currently under construction.

Preliminary plans for the treatment facilities – expected to be up and running within two to three years – were presented at a city-hosted water quality open house this month.

Test results for arsenic and manganese levels over the past year were also on display.

The arsenic levels in two of the city’s seven wells tested within 0.002 mg/L of Health Canada’s maximum allowable concentration of .010 mg/L, while the manganese levels in five of the wells tested above the esthetic guideline limit.

St. Louis told PAN the city has set a goal of an 80 per cent reduction rate for arsenic, which would bring the overall water-supply concentration below Health Canada’s negligible health-risk level of .0003 mg/L.

The current arsenic levels have been a source of concern for some residents, who have been critical of the city for not doing enough to inform the community about the health risks associated with arsenic exposure. St. Louis said information about arsenic and how it can be removed from a household’s water supply is provided on the city’s website. In addition, he said, the city included details about arsenic with the water bills mailed out earlier this year.

With Fraser Health’s June 30 deadline for the city to have secondary disinfection in place, St. Louis said staff are still in the process of conducting bench-scale tests on the addition of chlorine. While he didn’t know when full chlorination will be implemented, he said the community will be informed when the secondary treatment is in place system-wide.

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